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Canon Speedlite 580EX II

Review Date: Mar 31, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Ease of use overall. Smart coordination between camera and slave flashes.
Menu on unit crude & awkward to navigate. Hotshoe foot attachment does not fully secure the flash unit on the hotshoe, allowing slight physical rotation movement.

The Canon Speedlite 580EX II mounted on my camera set my photography in turbo, day and night. Flash lighting itself opens more photographic opportunities, and used with the right touch can enhance most images. The 580EX II does it all well. It can act as a master to many slave flashes. This flash with a diffuser cap (which nobody mentioned) bathes the subject with a flattering light. Point the flash up, and its powerful beam fills the room with a fine diffused light, even with a diffuser cap.

I urge photographers wishing to learn flash photography to read a few books on the subject.

Minimalist Lighting, by Kirk Tuck.

Light - Science and Magic, by Hunter, Biver & Fugua.

The Hot Shoe Diaries, by Joe McNally.

Canon Speedlite System Digital Field Guide, by J. Dennis Thomas (Note this book covers the 430EX and the 580EX, but well worth reading anyhow).

These books may set you free from the fear of flash.

Try the low-budget but powerful lessons on flash photography at

Strobist Lighting 101

Strobist Lighting 102

From “Here's a little secret: There are only a few things you can do to control light. Once you learn those - and learn them well - you are off to the races.”

You too can do turbo flash.

Sigma 150mm f2.8 APO Macro DG EX HSM

Review Date: Nov 30, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Sharpness, respectful distance from subject, solid build, image tonality
Minor CA under some circumstances.

Late last year, I bought the Sigma 150mm f/2.8 Macro Lens for my budding interest in macro photography. First, I did some online research, including at, then got this lens. What a boon to my early efforts this lens has proved. I can hardly take a bad photograph with it. My neighbor has a large rose bush whose branches hang over the fence into my yard, at about 8 feet elevation. The white roses on it bunch. Recently, handheld, using available daylight, I snapped a photo of one bunch, with this lens on my Canon XSi. Besides cropping and darkening the background, the photograph required very little editing beyond setting the mid-point grey tone and some sharpening in the image software. The lens captured the fine petal veins and subtle tonal gradations across the petals. The visual satisfaction of viewing this photograph repeats itself each time I rest my eyes on it. My live-in asked me to frame the photograph for the kitchen table. Then she put it in her room, on the bookcase next to her computer desk. Thankfully, I must have received a good copy of this lens. I do, however, notice a faint line of chromatic aberration on the edge of white rose petals contrasting with a very dark background, although strong daylight conditions may have contributed to this CA. Since then, I have not seen CA in my images using this lens. (In any event, this defect corrects fairly easily using the burn tool with a small brush set to highlights mode and the exposure at 100 percent, while running this brush along the edge like a surgeon.) I also own the Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro Lens and the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro Lens. Both perform as expected, and I issue no complaints. But when I do macro photography I typically turn first to the Sigma 150mm lens. Others have mentioned the convenience of keeping a distance from the subject while using this lens. Overall I give this Sigma lens a 9 out of 10. As to lens weight, I say, “Man up.” It goes with the territory.

Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM

Review Date: Nov 1, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Superior optics. Image stablization.
No zoom lock.

After my having used this fine zoom lens now for almost a year, I can recommend it as a walking around lens, especially on a 1.6 crop factor Canon camera, where the lens equates to 27mm out to 80mm. This focal length range serves most photographers well. From my reading, I see this lens has superior optics, equivalent to or exceeding most L lenses. I collect Canon lenses. I've researched the other zoom lenses that operate in this len's focal range, and none really match its optics. As a result, I feel in a quandary because I want to move up to a full-frame Canon camera, the new 5D Mark II, yet the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS lens mounts only on the smaller sensor cameras. Fortunately, Canon has introduced the 50D with its multiple enhancements over the 40D, and so I may buy it just so I can continue to use the EF-S 17-55mm lens. But let me say the Canon EOS XSi with its 12 megapixels allows capture of images likely as good as the full frame pro cameras. After careful processing of its RAW images, I can see no difference, at least for enlargements up to 13 by 19 inches. Of course, the superior Canon lenses elevate this little camera to another league. On a related note, I will buy the 5D Mark II when it hits the market anyway, but will likely mount my collection of prime lenses on it. Nothing really beats the EF 35mm f/1.4 L lens or the EF 50mm f/1.2 L lens or the EF 85mm f/1.2 L Mark II lens. I typically keep the 50mm lens always on a body ready to shoot quick portraits in natural light for beautiful images. I digress. The 17-55mm lens with its IS takes stunning photographs in low-light situations like air museum hangers. In AV mode with ISO 200 and f/5.6 (or even f/6.3), IS engaged, the lens captures an image full of light bathing the aircraft, causing it to seem to glow. This effect arises from the shadows showing some detail which grows as a visible tonality across the image to the bright areas. Thus, the shadows do not produce a distinct contrast with the mid-tones. The aircraft images look alive. I would suggest any photographer rent or borrow this lens for an outing. Even inside a house, with ambient indirect lighting, this lens will capture a subject with a tonality peculiar because lacking the typical highlights. When I first received this lens, I pushed it to see where it stopped capturing useful images. Just now I shot one of my inkjet printers with this lens, IS engaged and zoomed to 55mm, in Av mode, at ISO 400, aperture f/5.0, with the shutter at 0.8 seconds, and handheld. A useful image resulted. I will offer one tip for a new user of this lens. Watch in the viewfinder for a slow tracking effect, indicating IS at work. The IS gyro takes a moment to engage. During this moment, pressing the shutter button will often produce a blurred image. As well, a blurred image may occur from a quick movement of the hand when pushing the shutter button. Evidently, the IS cannot compensate for gross motion during shutter release. Press the shutter deliberately. This lens has much to offer the photographer looking for a short zoom lens. Coupled with an external flash attachment, this lens can do the lion's share of photography for most photographers.